During its historic days, when it was held at Belle View, the British Open Brass Band Championship maintained a traditional approach to the choice of test pieces. The reputation for musical innovation rested with the National Brass Band Championships in London. In 1975 however, this all changed when Harry Mortimer commissioned Elgar Howarth to compose the test-piece. Three years earlier, Elgar Howarth had accepted an invitation to become Musical Advisor to Grimethorpe Colliery Band and immediately began to explore new repertoire opportunities, often involving contemporary composers he had worked with as a professional trumpet player and conductor.
In writing Fireworks, Howarth took as his model Benjamin Britten's 'Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra' and also provided narration (not recorded on this CD) which offers an introduction to the instruments, sound and character of the brass band. The composition certainly provided its own fireworks in the conservative brass band genre as it proved to be a controversial work, for two reasons. Firstly, it made huge demands on the percussion section which itself had only just been admitted to the brass band contest arena and secondly, the musical language with strong elements of parody and irony, moments of high dissonance and irregular rhythms came as something of a shock to players and audiences used to lyrical melody and traditional harmony. It would be true to say that brass band music was changed forever by Fireworks!
The CD also contains three cornet solos played by the Swedish trumpet star, Hakan Harkenberger all of which are first ever recordings.